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Binaural beats: How do they work?

If you're anything like us, you're ever curious about new methods of upping your sleep game. There's a new one that's piqued our interest and it's as simple as pressing play.

Touted as a must-try for improving focus and concentration, boosting memory, and—yup—getting a better night's sleep, Binaural Beats have been increasing in popularity. Yoga Wake Up features many sessions that already use this chill music, so we decided to dig a little deeper into its origins and the science behind how it works!

Binaural Beats have actually been around for centuries

What most people don't realize is that although the creation of binaural beats music has only been possible through technological advancement in the last 100 or so years, the use of this natural science dates back thousands of years. Ancient cultures were aware of how the brain could be entrained through sound repetition well before modern science was able to prove the process.

Now of course, in times past, societies didn't refer to this science as binaural beats, but what they did know was that consistent, rhythmic sound had extremely powerful healing and spiritual benefits.

Scientist Melinda Maxfield, PhD, conducted research on the drumbeats used during rituals of ancient cultures and found that they generally beat at a steady rate of 4.5 beats per second. This consistent beat induces a trance-like state for the tribe, due to the brain shifting into a 4.5 beats-per-second brainwave frequency, which is a low Theta brainwave state, similar to what you might experience in deep meditation.

Indeed, in almost every ancient culture, repetitive beat formats have played an important role in wellbeing and prosperity. For example: through the use of repetitive drumming and chanting, Tibetan monks, Native American shamans, Hindu healers and master Yogis have been able to induce specific brainwave states for transcending consciousness, healing, concentration and spiritual growth.

The scientific discovery of Binaural Beats

It wasn't until 1839 that Prussian physicist and meteorologist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove actually discovered the method of producing binaural beats, which actually means, "having or relating to two ears".

Binaural beats are a technique of combining two slightly different sound frequencies to create the perception of a single new frequency tone. More specifically, a sound played in the left ear is heard as a single tone, and a sound played in the right ear is also heard as a single tone. When played together, the brain produces a perceived third sound, known as a binaural beat.

So how exactly does that help you fall asleep faster?

Basically, our brain produces its own frequencies—gamma (40Hz+), beta (13 to 40Hz), alpha (7 to 13Hz), theta (4 to 7Hz), and delta (<4Hz)—and each of these frequencies aligns with a particular emotional and physical state. So, for example, your brain produces brain waves at a specific frequency when you're excited and full of energy, but produces brain waves at a completely different frequency when you're ready to fall asleep.

Theoretically, binaural beats work by changing the frequency of your brain waves in a process called "entrainment". By creating a binaural beat with the right frequency, you can "trick" your brain into producing the brain waves you need to experience a specific emotional or physical state—including sleep. Pretty amazing right?

A recent study found that participants who used binaural beats during sleep (with frequencies between 2 and 8 Hz) for eight weeks reported both improved sleep quality and post-sleep state, while participants who didn't use binaural beats reported no change.

So what are you waiting for?

As it stands today there is still research being done on the effectiveness of listening to binaural beats for concentration, relaxation or sleep, but it being such a simple switch, we think it's worth trying. At the very least, listening to binaural beats in the background can gradually whisk us away to a more dreamlike state. Although they're best delivered via headphones for the full experience, we have seen the benefits of relaxation from listening to them before bed or alongside our guided bedtime meditations or yoga nidra.

Have you tried Binaural Beats? Let us know if they worked for you in the comments.

and Sweet Dreams...